Become an Upstander!

Volunteer Opportunities
in partnership with
Jewish Volunteer Connection

Take a (Virtual) Tour: Scrap Yard!

Posted on June 23rd, 2020 by

A JMM Original Exhibit

Even when we’re closed we’re still sharing our stories! We’re pleased to offer a digital tour of our original exhibit Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling for your adult group. This hour long tour is an opportunity to see the exhibit, hear the stories of US scrap families, and learn more about where the stuff you throw away ends up. This experience is led by a JMM staff member, who will lead guests through meaningful discussion and even give behind-the-scenes info about how the exhibit came together. All of this is done over Zoom, for an interactive and accessible tour that you can take in your own home!

In support JMM and staff, the suggested donation for this experience is $50. If this number is not manageable, please contact Talia Makowsky, Visitor Services Coordinator, so that we can find a price that works for your group.

To book this experience, fill out this online form, and a JMM staff member will reach out to you to complete the booking process. Please book at least a week in advance to guarantee your preferred time slot. Up to 25 devices may participate in the tour at one time.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

We Are Open: Being vulnerable for the difficult conversations

Posted on March 9th, 2020 by

From Visitor Services Coordinator Talia Makowsky. To read more posts from Talia, click here.

Our new mission statement has only been in use a few months, but we’ve been working towards our commitment to connection, action, and a better future for a while now. For me, I’ve been focusing a lot on two particular parts of our values, nurturing discourse and fostering discovery. These values that people matter and learning matters mean that I need to do what I can to make the Museum an open place.

Keeping a Museum open in this way is more than unlocking the doors and turning the lights on. Of course, we check every day that our exhibits are in working order, that our facilities are clean and safe to use, and prepare to greet every person who visits us. But beyond being a friendly face at the front desk, we also work to create a sense of welcome to everyone. At the same time, we want to find moments of vulnerability and honesty to encourage learning. We are still figuring out how to do this, and we make mistakes as we learn, as anyone does. By taking the lessons from these mistakes, and continuing to try our best, we work towards the future of a welcoming Museum that acts as a site of discourse, preservation, and discovery.

Part of this work involves finding stories that are relevant to today, while also sharing the vital stories of the Jewish community. I think the Jewish Refugees in Shanghai exhibit is a great example. This exhibit, which was opened a little over a year ago, was created by the Shanghai Jewish Refugee Museum, about the Jewish refugees who fled Central Europe during the 1930s and 40s. This exhibit, written from the Shanghai perspective, explores the history of the Jewish refugees who fled the Holocaust, what living in Shanghai was like, the formation of the Hongkou Ghetto after the breakout of the Pacific War, and why most of the Jewish refugees left Shanghai after the war. It also includes the personal stories of Jewish people who survived because they were able to take refuge in Shanghai.

One of the most exciting moments of the exhibit was the opening, which featured lion dancers in the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

While the focus of this exhibit is the time period during the Holocaust, the topics of immigration and the relationship between Jewish and Chinese communities is still obviously relevant to our current times. The conversation around these topics are essential to our mission today, as we share new stories with our audiences, find new ways to have difficult conversations, and engage with new communities, who may be more inclined to visit if their own history is represented as well. This exhibit was clearly a success, as we had jam-packed programs and group visits from organizations who had never stepped through our doors before. For more information about the exhibit, I encourage you to read Marvin’s blog post, Shanghai in Context.

We work to find interesting programs that will lead to questions and conversations.

The importance of these types of exhibits and conversations cannot be understated, as one line of the exhibit expresses: “The history of Jewish Refugees in Shanghai is more than a topic for academic research. It also bears real significance on enhancing Sino-Jewish friendship and promoting world peace.” I argue that many of the stories that the Museum shares have an impact on the Jewish community’s relationships, within itself and with others.

Having difficult conversations about weighty topics is important to our goal of being welcoming. By providing a place where discourse can happen, we create more empathy and civility between people. Take our school groups for example. Some of the students that visit the Museum have never stepped into a synagogue before and may not even know what the word means. Our educators lead the students through the history of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, and give them an introduction to Judaism, a somewhat daunting task considering the multi-faceted and complex nature of Judaism. But our educator’s experienced and careful guidance allows students to find connections between themselves and Jewish people, creating empathy and familiarity that wasn’t there before. I see that newfound compassion every time a school group heads back out the door, as they wave goodbye and exclaim “Shalom!” with huge smiles.

Students are always excited to learn and ask questions, even if they’re difficult questions to answer. Luckily, our Education staff know the importance of having these conversations.

As I look forward to future programs, exhibits, and visits at the Museum, I continue to wonder how I can make these moments of discomfort, vulnerability, and learning more accessible to every person who comes through the doors. How can I make help people to feel ready to engage in this discourse, explore new history, and challenge their own personal beliefs? I also wonder how I can push myself to do the same. From what I’ve learned so far, there’s no one answer, as every person finds their own way to learn and to grow, and so different resources and tools must be available for each individual need. While I work to implement those tools, I hope I can represent the Museum as a place of openness and welcoming, no matter what else is going on in the world.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Small, but Mighty – SMA Conference 2020

Posted on February 27th, 2020 by

From Visitor Services Coordinator Talia Makowsky. To read more posts from Talia, click here.


Some people spend their birthday celebrating with friends, having a nice dinner, or taking a trip. This year, I celebrated by attending the Small Museum Association Conference 2020, which took place in College Park, Maryland. And it was a wonderful birthday event! I attended lots of informative and interesting sessions and met many lovely people who are dedicated to their missions of learning, preserving, sharing, and making change in the world. Most inspirational to me was the sense of spirit the conference created, of all these folks coming together, and finding tangible techniques and lessons that they can take back to their sites, no matter how many staff, resources, or how much money they have available. All the people at this conference want to make their site or sites more accessible to guests, more inspiring, and find new ways to connect to their wider communities.

This all sounded very familiar to me, as we’re working to do the same thing here at JMM. Hearing others talk through their challenges, and problem-solve together, made me feel like I have chosen the right path professionally. I now have a new network of people to reach out to, when I need help solving my own problems at work. I hope to visit at least a few of the historical and educational sites represented by the other conference attendees, over the course of this year.

In the meantime, I’m still bursting with information and reviewing my notes from the conference. While I share this newfound inspiration with everyone at the Museum, I wanted to take this blog post to share some of the highlights of my time there.

As we shared in a social media post, the College Park Aviation Museum was generous enough to host the SMA Conference reception.

The conference really took off at the reception Sunday night.

The SMA Board President welcomed us to the conference and to the Aviation Museum, and we had a great time chatting with other and looking around. Though the Aviation Museum is a small museum, they have some amazing historic aircraft, which made for great photo opportunities. If you’re ever in College Park, I highly encourage a visit to the museum, which includes the grounds of the world’s oldest continuously operating airport.

Another highlight of the conference was the Monday night banquet, which I attended as a scholarship winner. Following the theme of the conference, “Honoring the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage: Museums as Catalysts of Social Change,” people were encouraged to dress in 20’s-style clothing. These outfits ranged from flapper dresses to suffragette costumes, complete with signs declaring women’s right to vote.

Anyone wearing a costume could assemble for the annual costume contest! I’m going to make sure to bring my best finery next time.

The banquet was another opportunity to schmooze with fellow museum professionals, and I learned a lot about sites in New Jersey, New York City, and in Virginia, along with Maryland historical sites and museums. I’m incredibly thankful that I had the opportunity to attend as a scholarship winner, especially since all the winners got to know each other and we often sat near each other as solo attendees. The most amazing part of the banquet though was dessert.

Dessert was amazing as it looks!

Beyond the events and networking, the most important takeaway for me was the conversations around accessibility. The presenters who focused on this topic made the goal of creating accessible programs, exhibits, and experiences seem more attainable. The presenters provided a range of solutions, large and small, and emphasized why it’s so important to make our sites accessible, beyond the ADA requirements.

Multi-sensory mapping refers to looking at an exhibit space and figuring out where sensory experiences take place, such as light, sound, crowds, space, and more.

Every person who presented about accessibility mentioned that creating accessibility resources with just one group in mind, can help everyone who visits a site. Even if we’re thinking about a person in a wheelchair moving easily through a space, we’re also helping people who don’t like to feel crowded. Providing information through audio media helps those who are blind or have low vision, but also makes a more immersive experience. Having a quiet room to rest during a museum visit isn’t just important for those who can get overwhelmed with sensory experiences. It also helps the average visitor who just wants to sit before they explore the rest of the museum.

I’m most excited to find ways to help the visitors I meet every day to have a more enhanced and immersive experience. I hope that by doing so, they can better learn our stories, explore our history, and imagine a better future.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Next Page »